Canada: Newfoundland & Labrador Crown Immunity For Mechanics' Lien Holdbacks: 3 Key Risks For Subcontractors In Brook Construction (2007) v. Blackwood Contractors Ltd.

Last Updated: May 27 2016
Article by John O'Dea

It’s now certain: in Newfoundland & Labrador, liens can’t be placed on Crown land or holdbacks with the possible exemption allowing for a lien to be placed on the holdback for public streets. Here’s how the Newfoundland and Labrador Court of Appeal’s decision in Brook Construction (2007) v. Blackwood Contractors Ltd. increases the risks for subcontractors in Crown infrastructure projects in Newfoundland & Labrador.

The Case. The NL Crown owned land in St. Anthony to construct a school. Brook was the general contractor for the project; Blackwood was the subcontractor for the supply and installation of heating, plumbing and ventilation. On November 2, 2012, Blackwood ceased work on the project and registered a lien under the NL Mechanics’ Lien Act (Act) on the Crown land for $604,513.84. The lien also claimed a charge against the holdback. On November 26, 2012, Blackwood filed a statement of claim against Brook alleging breach of contract and asserting it brought the action “to enforce the lien as provided in the Mechanics’ Lien Act”. However, it didn’t  claim enforcement of the lien by sale of the property or name the Crown as a party to the action. Brook applied to the court to vacate the lien on the two grounds: that Blackwood failed to commence an action naming the Crown as owner, and that it can’t claim a lien against Crown land. The judge refused, ordered the lien be vacated upon Brook posting a bond, and concluded there’s a distinction between the rights to claim a lien on Crown land, and to claim a lien against the holdback – and the lien can exist against the holdback because an action can be taken under the Act even where the work was on Crown land. Brook appealed this decision.

The Appeal Decision. The key issue in the appeal was whether the Act allowed Blackwood to lien the Crown’s holdback funds, which the Court of Appeal said was a novel and important issue. The Court of Appeal concluded it doesn’t, ultimately addressing four key legal points:

  • The holdback lien is “parasitic” on the land lien. The right to the lien on the holdback is “parasitic” on, not separate and distinct form, the existence of a lien on the land. Referring to section 12 of the Act (“Holdback”) the Court noted it’s clear that the statutory holdback must only be maintained respecting contracts “under and by virtue of which a lien may arise” and where there’s a lien under section 6 of the Act (“General right to a lien”), which creates the statutory lien and without which there would be no claim on the land benefitted by the work. The Court explicitly noted that mechanics lien legislation in other provinces have created “trust” provisions for the purpose of the holdback – but the NL Act has no trust provisions.
  • The failure to sue the Crown was fatal. Blackwood’s failure to name the Crown as a defendant in its statement of claim rendered the claim deficient. A lien claimed against land must include the owner of the land as a party, and a claim against a fund of money must include the person holding the money as a defendant. Section 24(1) of the Act (“When lien stops”) requires a lien claimant to file an action within 90 days after the work has been completed “to realize the claim”. 
  • The Crown is immune from the Act. The Act doesn’t bind the Crown. Under the NL Interpretation Act, no provision of a statute binds or affects the Crown unless that statute expressly states it does and decided Canadian cases and secondary sources are virtually unanimous on this point. Without an express statement in the NL Act, the NL Crown is not statutorily obligated to holdback funds nor are they lienable – even though it may holdback funds voluntarily or be required to do so pursuant to a contract. In reaching this decision, the Court rejected Blackwood’s argument that the fact the exemption for a “public street, road or highway” in section 5 of the Act isn’t expressly limited to municipalities means it applies to Crown-owned streets, roads and highways, supporting its argument that the Act applies to Crown land. However, the Court noted, without deciding, that it’s possible the public street exemption applies only to those owned by municipalities and not those owned by the provincial Crown because the Crown is not expressly subject to a mechanic’s lien.
  • The Proceedings Against the Crown Act doesn’t save the lien against the holdback. The Court divided on this issue (and in particular, on the effect of section 24(1) of the Proceedings Against the Crown Act, which deals with the ability to issue legal process against the Crown for payment of money owing or accruing as remuneration for goods or services), but the majority decided the Proceedings against the Crown Act does not modify the law to make the Act applicable to Crown land and/or the holdback.

The Three Key Risks. Practically, the ultimate decision that liens can’t be placed on Crown land or holdback, with the possible exception of the holdback for public streets, increases the risks for subcontractors in Crown infrastructure projects in NL:

  • Reduced security for Crown projects. Subcontractors in Crown infrastructure projects in NL have lost the security provided by a holdback lien, and they might quote higher prices to general contractors for this work to compensate for this added risk.
  • Litigation on the public street exemption question. While the decision left open the possibility the public street exemption applies to Crown streets and roads, it strongly suggests the exemption only applies to those owned by municipalities. This creates a significant risk for subcontractors working in this sector, and litigation on this issue is highly likely.
  • Names matter. If the general contract between the Crown and the general contractor provides for a holdback or states the Crown is subject to the Act, a prudent subcontractor will name the Crown in both its  claim for lien and statement of claim – or risk losing the claim altogether.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Authors
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Alexander Holburn Beaudin + Lang LLP
Alexander Holburn Beaudin + Lang LLP
 
In association with
Related Topics
 
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Alexander Holburn Beaudin + Lang LLP
Alexander Holburn Beaudin + Lang LLP
Related Articles
 
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Tools
Print
Font Size:
Translation
Channels
Mondaq on Twitter
 
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
 
Email Address
Company Name
Password
Confirm Password
Position
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Accounting
 Anti-trust
 Commercial
 Compliance
 Consumer
 Criminal
 Employment
 Energy
 Environment
 Family
 Finance
 Government
 Healthcare
 Immigration
 Insolvency
 Insurance
 International
 IP
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Litigation
 Media & IT
 Privacy
 Real Estate
 Strategy
 Tax
 Technology
 Transport
 Wealth Mgt
Regions
Africa
Asia
Asia Pacific
Australasia
Canada
Caribbean
Europe
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
U.K.
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of www.mondaq.com

To Use Mondaq.com you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.

Disclaimer

The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.

General

Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions